Blog / 45 posts found

Maurizio Cattelan

Who is Maurizio Cattelan?

Who is Maurizio Cattelan, and what does he have to do with Milan and our guided walking tours?

"The Ninth Hour"

“The Ninth Hour”

Cattelan, an Italian contemporary artist, has recently hit the news for a rather funny dispute involving the Guggenheim Museum in New York, Mr. Donald Trump and a very peculiar sculpture: an 18-karat, fully functioning, solid gold toilet — an interactive work titled “America” that critics have described as pointed satire aimed at the excess of wealth in this country. The whole story is rather funny, and that is no surprise when Cattelan is involved. Cattelan’s work , which have sold for millions of dollars, are often satirical and provocative, such as  a sculpture depicting Pope John Paul II lying on the ground after being hit by a meteorite.

He co-founded the magazine Toilet Paper (long before the Guggenheim’s “America”!) and in 2011 a retrospective exhibition of his works, “All”, was organized at the Guggenheim Museum, where all his works were hung up  like laundry to dry.
But Cattelan is also one of the protagonist of our guided tours, the creator of a sculpture that we admire at one of the stops in the Highlights and Beyond tour and an increasingly beloved highlight of our city. It is named “L.O.V.E.”, it proudly stands in front of the building where the Italian Stock Exchange is located, right in the middle of the financial district, and it represents… well,  an 11-metre white marble middle finger sticking straight up from an otherwise fingerless hand.



Sheer vulgarity? Pointless provocation? Easy satire? Not at all, or maybe yes, in part, but that is not the whole story. Cattelan has always resisted interpreting his work, telling interviewers he would leave that to his audience. As it always is the case with art, multiple interpretations are possible.

Join us on a guided tour of our city, and we will reveal you the hidden messages of the naughty boy of the art world.

Affordable Art Fair

Things to do in Milan this week – January 25-31

Things to do in Milan this week – January 25-31

The best things to do in Milan this week, including Music, Art, Museums, Shopping and Restaurants, chosen by Bella Milano Tours.

ANTIQUES MARKET – On Sunday 28, along the picturesque Naviglio Grande (in the Canal district), the Antiques Market of Navigli consists of  over 350 stalls where you can hunt down art, furniture and jewellery. From 9 am to 7 pm. Stop at one of the cafés for a bountiful aperitif or a charming dinner along the quiet waters of the canal.

ART FAIR – From January 26 to 28 the Affordable Art Fair offers first-time collectors the chance to buy artworks at a decent price (maximum cost allowed: 6,000 euro). This is the 8th edition of AAF in Milan, involving 85 international art galleries. Do not expect famous names but take this as an opportunity to discover new emerging talents. At Superstudio Più, in via Tortona 27.

CLASSICAL MUSIC – On January 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Milan will commemorate the tragedy of Shoah with a number of concerts; this is a selection of the ones which are free and located in special venues:

– in Palazzina Liberty, largo Marinai d’Italia, at 2.30 pm a concert of music based on Shakespears’s sonnets;

– in the Gothic church of San Cristoforo sul Naviglio, via San Cristoforo 3, at 4 pm music by Couperin played by an ensemble including flute, clavichord, violin, viola; in the same Church at 9 pm the ensemble “Hornpipe” will performe;

– at Conservatorio, in via Conservatorio 12, a youth choir will sing music by Mozart, Hindemith, Ilse Weber, Ravel, Rodrigo, Hemsi.

JAZZ – A rich weekend lays ahead: Salumeria della Musica, Blue Note, Masada are the places to be. The latter in particular will host guitarist David Torn in a live performance at 10 pm on Sunday 28. Info here.

Shoah Memorial

Shoah Memorial

SPECIAL TIP – Italy has its share of guilt in the persecution of Jews. In the years 1943–1945, fifteen trains left from Milan’s Central Railway Station carrying Jews and other persecuted people to concentration or death camps. Thousands of people were loaded onto livestock cars and taken away to be killed. The recently opened Shoah Memorial is a dramatic reminder of such past tragedy and a warning against fascism. It is located exactly in the area where deported people were gathered and loaded on the trains. Simply breathtaking.

MUST DO – A guided walking tour in Milan with us! :-)





Vertical Forest

Milan is growing green

One of our favourite places in Milan, when planning a guided walking tour for our clients, is the business district of Porta Nuova, and the reason for that is its perfect blend of daring architecture and nature, a living proof of how Milan is growing green.

Library of Trees - the project

Library of Trees – the project

Built during the last decade, Porta Nuova skyscrapers have transformed an abandoned area in a hip district bustling with life, with a keen eye on the importance of nature even in the middle of a big city. In the heart of the district, a “Library of Trees” is now being created, a 3,500 square meter green space that, when completed, will consist of 450 trees from 19 species, plus 90,000 plants including hedges, shrubs and climbers.

But this return to nature had already been anticipated by the now world-famous “Vertical Forest”: two residential tower blocks built in 2014 that are covered in 800 trees, 4,500 shrubs and 15,000 plants. If this forest was planted on the ground, it would cover 20,000 square meters – the size of three and a half football pitches.

Designed by architect Stefano Boeri, the vertical forests concept has proven so popular that similar projects have been commissioned for Lausanne in Switzerland, Utrecht in the Netherlands, and the Chinese cities of Nanjing and Liuzhou. The proposed Liuzhou Forest City is the most ambitious project yet: a new town with homes for 30,000 people, where buildings will be covered by 40,000 trees and 1 million plants. Each year the trees will absorb 10,000 tonnes of CO2 and 57 tonnes of pollutants, and produce about 900 tonnes of oxygen.

Boeri’s team of architects say the plants will also decrease the average air temperature, create noise barriers and boost biodiversity by creating a habitat for birds, insects and small animals.

The whole project is also a feast for the eyes: just walk around Porta Nuova district in early Spring, and you will be delighted by the wealth of colours and shapes and scents from the blooming trees.

With two-thirds of the world’s population predicted to be living in cities by 2050, Milan’s Vertical Forest and tree library might show the world a way to create healthier, happier urban spaces.

For a thorough experience in the area, follow our tips or contact us: we will be happy to guide you around this successful project, revealing you the many stories of the people who made it possible.

Brera market

Things to do in Milan this week – January 18-24

Things to do in Milan this week – January 18-24

The best things to do in Milan this week, including Music, Art, Museums, Shopping and Restaurants, chosen by Bella Milano Tours.

Die Fliedermaus at La Scala

Die Fliedermaus at La Scala

OPERA – An extraordinary debut at La Scala Opera House: Johann Strauss’ Die Fliedermaus is performed for the first time in Milan, conducted by Cornelius Meister and directed by Cornelius Obonya. It is such a funny, sparkling, surprising opera, or rather “operetta”, light opera, that in spite of being sung in German it can be enjoyed by really everybody. In any case, subtitles in English are provided. Find here more info about last minute tickets.

FREE – Saturday 20, at 9 pm, the choir “Amici del Loggione” will sing in Palazzina Libery, an Art Nouveau building located in the middle of a park. The address is Largo Marinai d’Italia. Palazzina Liberty used to be the headquarters of Dario Fo’s theatrical company, when the Nobel-awarded writer and playwriter was still considered by mainstream critics as a subversive agitator.

Sunday 21, at 5 pm, organ music is played in a magic location, the church of Saint Simpliciano, whose foundation dates back to the 4th century AD. It is located in Brera district, the fascinating neighborhood of Milan famous for its narrow streets of cobblestones, fine boutiques and cosy cafés.

FOODEataly means good food, and being housed in a former theatre it also means good music: every Wednesday at 6.30 pm, on Eataly stage, a jazz group will play while guests enjoy their aperitifs prepared by the Michelin-starred Alice restaurant. On January 24, the Bublitschki Band will entertain the audience with a mix of rithms from different cultures and traditions: Brazil, the Mediterranean, East Europe.

FLEA MARKET – Flea market may not be the exact definition for the antique-artisan-collectors market of Brera. Stalls will fill up of colours and scents the usually quiet Fiori Chiari, Madonnina and Formentini streets. Sunday 21, 10 am to 6 pm.

SPECIAL TIP – For cinema lovers, Anteo Palazzo del Cinema offers you the chance to enjoy fine food and film in the newly renovated Sala Nobel.  Usually movies in Italy are dubbed in Italian, unless the original version is played. This is the case for “Three billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri” (Saturday 20 and Sunday 21, 1 pm).

MUST DO – A guided walking tour in Milan with us! :-)



Leonardo's horse

Where is Leonardo’s horse located?

Where is Leonardo’s horse located?
When we guide our guests around Milan, we are frequently asked a question: “Where is Leonardo’s horse located?“. The answer is a long, articulated story, so follow us in our quest of the famous statue.

Leonardo da Vinci spent decades of his life in Milan, a city that he truly loved. In 1482, Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, challenged him to build the largest equestrian statue the world had ever seen in honor of his father, Francesco. Always distracted by the most diverse projects and artistic works, only in 1493 Leonardo presented a 24’ clay model of the statue, from which a bronze horse could be made.
But those were troubled years, and when the Duchy of Milan was engaged in a war against the French, Ludovico Sforza confiscated the 80 tons of bronze that had been set aside for the horse to make weapons. Things got even worse, and in 1499 Milan was invaded by the French army, whose archers used the huge horse model for target practice, reducing it to ruins. Leonardo’s molds and sketches of the original horse were lost, and the project abandoned.


Leonardo, Study of horses

Leonardo, Study of horses

Now we have to move forward in time by 5 centuries and in space to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where a retired pilot and collector, Charles Dent, read in 1977 of an extraordinary finding: a few years before, the lost sketches of Leonardo’s horse had been found in the Biblioteca Nationale in Madrid.
He decided he would be the one to complete the project, with the collaboration of Japanese-American sculptor Nina Akamu. The outcome is not exactly what Leonardo had in mind. According to Akamu herself, “the sculpture which I created for the Leonardo da Vinci’s Horse Inc. … is not intended to be a recreation of his sculpture. However, it has been significantly influenced by certain works of art and writings from that period, and specifically Leonardo’s notebooks and accompanying drawings with great emphasis on his involvement with the Sforza monument.“
The final, giant bronze horse was finally installed in Milan in 1999, but unfortunately Charles Dent died before he could see it.

It now stands, proud and bold, at the entrance to the secondary grandstand of the San Siro gallop racetrack in Milan.
If you are interested in Leonardo’s life and works, and want to know more about its closeness with our beautiful city, join us on a guided walking tour of Milan. We have plenty of stories to tell you and places to show you!

Palazzo Lombardia

Things to do in Milan this week – January 11-17


Things to do in Milan this week – January 11-17

The best things to do in Milan this week, including Music, Art, Museums, Shopping and Restaurants, chosen by Bella Milano Tours.

Ducati Store

Ducati Store

NEW OPENING – 1.400 square meters the showroom, 700 square meters the repair workshop. This is the new Ducati Store recently opened in Milan. Ducati fans will find accessories and clothings, such as helmets, bags, gloves, jackets, but above all the whole range of Ducati motorbikes, including the latest models.

MUSIC – Museo del Novecento, in Duomo square, is the unusual location for a concert of contemporary music on Sunday 14, at 11 am. Luca Avanzi (oboe), Lorenzo Gorli (violin), Elena Casoli (guitar), Maria Grazia Bellocchio (piano) will play music written by Bruno Maderna. A fantastic chance to visit a fascinating collection of paintings and sculptures by the greatest Italian artists of the XX century. The breathtaking view of Duomo square from the museum is a plus.

EXHIBITIONS – The voice of Maria Callas will accompany you in the visit of an exhibition dedicated to the grand dame of opera, open until the end of January in Museo Teatrale della Scala. Photographs, sketches, jewels used during famous performances, such as “La traviata” directed by Luchino Visconti in 1955.

Bagni Misteriosi

Bagni Misteriosi

LEISUREBagni Misteriori is the leisure area next to a famous Milanese theatre, Teatro Franco Parenti. Built in the Thirties and recently restored, during winter its swimming pool turns into a floating skating rink surrounded by a magical atmosphere. Complete your experience with a glass of vin brulé or a cup of hot chocolate. It is open on weekdays 4.30-7.30 pm, Saturdays and Sunday 10.30 am to 7.30 pm.

SPECIAL TIP – Visit the 39th floor of Palazzo Lombardia, where Regione Lombardy has its Headquarters. The belvedere (at the height of 160 meters) offers a 360-degreee view of the city and in particular of the newly developped Porta Nuova district, with its daring and elegant high-rise buildings. No booking is requested. Open 10 am to 6 pm on Sunday 14th. Palazzo Lombardia is in piazza Città di Lombardia, Nucleo 1.

MUST DO – A guided walking tour with Mirella & Valeria :-)



Milan in 2018

What is in store for Milan in 2018

What is in store for Milan in 2018
Fashion and art and all things nice: that is what’s in store for Milan in 2018. The calendar is simply overflowing with events, so let’s take a closer look.

January 12-15 – Men’s Fashion Week – At the last Fashion Week, in June 2017, the overall takeaway was that designers were ignoring trends and proposing what they do best. We will see in a few days if such attitude is confirmed also for the Fall/Winter 2018 collections. Follow live events here.

Donatella Versace

Donatella Versace

February 21-27 – Milan’s Fashion Week - The woman collection fashion shows are the most awaited moment of the international fashion system.

March 2-4 – Museocity will turn Milan into a mega arts centre with extended opening hours, special exhibitions and children’s workshops. And 15 extraordinary venues, such as artist ateliers and designer and architect studios, will be open to curious visitors.

April 9-15 – Art Week – An extensive programme of events, inaugurations and special openings all revolving around Miart, the fair dedicated to contemporary art.

April 17-22 - Design Week – If Edinburgh International Festival is accompanied by the exuberant Fringe Festival, Milan’s Salone del Mobile is matched with the Fuorisalone, possibly  the world’s most important date with design. Created from grassroots and organized by the municipal districts, during the Salone del Mobile it transforms the city into an exciting collective design event with entire urban areas transformed by temporary exhibitions.

Ludovico Einaudi - Pianocity 2014

Ludovico Einaudi – Pianocity 2014

May 18-20 – Pianocity - The annual peaceful invasion of pianos: over 400 concerts, piano lessons, tributes to great Masters and debut performances, often in unconventional places.

June 4-10 – Photo Week - At its second edition, a week full of exhibitions, meetings, guided tours, workshops and openings.

September 17-23 - Movie Week – Screenings right across the city in collaboration with Milano FIlm Festival; a whirlwind of exhibitions and special events in cinemas, plus, meetings with actors and directors

November 8-10 – Bookcity - Over 1000 events, both for bookworms and accidental readers.

And even more is yet to come!






Merry Christmas from Ciccio

Merry Christmas from Bella Milano Tours

Merry Christmas from Matilde

Merry Christmas from Matilde

Merry Christmas from Bella Milan Tours

Mirella & Valeria – together with our four-legged family members – wish you all a very merry Christmas! Whether you are celebrating a secular or religious Christmas, your day is sure to be filled with happiness. You may be wondering what we do for Christmas in Italy. Actually, traditions and customs are quite different in the 20 Italian regions, so there is not just one answer to such question. But all through our country, food is going to be on the front stage during the Holiday Season. So, follow us on a little virtual food tour of Italy and discover what Mirella and I are going to do on Christmas Eve and Day.


Merry Christmas from Lo Smilzo

Merry Christmas from Lo Smilzo

In the South of Italy, Christmas Eve is the peak

Valeria’s husband Andrea is from the South of Italy, where Christmas Eve is the peak of season’s celebrations. We will gather at Andrea’s parents’ house and his mamma Iolanda will prepare for us all a so-called “cena di magro”, literally “meagre dinner”, that is meatless dinner. It is supposed to be a light dinner, as a token of respect for the imminent birth of Jesus. But, come on, we are in Italy, a light dinner is blasphemy! So our menu will include risotto with cuttlefish, codfish with bellpepper, and a dessert named “calzuncini”, sort of sweet ravioli stuffed with wine must and chocolate. Definitely, no meagre dinner here. Late in the evening we will go to church for the solemn midnight mass, and when we are back it is finally time to open our gifts.


Merry Christmas from Dana

Merry Christmas from Dana

In Piedmont, Christmas day is the day

Mirella is from Alessandria, in Piedmont, a Northern region with a spectacular food and wine tradition. In the North of Italy Christmas Day is the day, and Christmas lunch the crowning moment. The menu at Mirella’s parents’ always includes typical agnolotti del plin, made with small pieces of flattened pasta dough, folded over a filling of roasted meat or vegetables. A triumph of roasted meat will follow, as lavish and generous as on the table of Henry VIII. Panettone will be the dessert; as a matter of fact it is traditional of Milan, but nowadays it can be found on every Italian table on Christmas Day. And presents? Unwrapping time is in the morning, when the family reunites, after the hugs and kisses and laughter, while everybody is sipping a heart-warming glass of wine and getting prepared for the festive lunch that lies ahead.

This is how we celebrate family ties and show our gratitude for all the things we have. We wish everybody wonder and warmth and happiness and joy. Merry Christmas!

Bottega Brera

Shopping at the museum

We all love shopping at the museum: museum shops are full of artistic, contemporary and classic object to combine shopping and culture.

A new venue has been recently opened in Milan inside Brera Museum: “Bottega Brera”, consisting of 86 square meters full of books and design, with plenty of products exclusively designed for the museum. Bottega Brera is accessible from the main courtyard of Brera building and therefore open to anybody, not just visitors to the Picture Gallery.

But Brera is not just an amazing collection of masterpieces, including paintings by Mantegna, Bellini, Tintoretto, and Caravaggio. Brera, established at the end of the XVIII century, was conceived as a citadel of culture, a temple of Enlightment were science and humanities could live side by side. That is why in the same Brera building you may visit not just the pinacotheca but also an Astonomical Observatory, you will stroll along the regular flowerbeds of a Botanical Garden and you’ll browse through the ancient volumes kept in the Braidense Library.

Fornasetti for Brera

Fornasetti for Brera

At Bottega Brera you will find objects reprenting each of such institutions, and even original creations by the students of prestigious Brera Academy of Arts, also housed in this century-old building. Products range from fragrances based on Brera Rose – grown in the Botanical Garden – to Fornasetti tableware created by students of the Academy; from Trussardi limited edition foulards (by the way, Brera custodians wear Trussardi!), to children’s books by Bruno Munari, who opened his first didactic workshop for kids at Brera.

At the end of your visit to the museum and your shopping session at Bottega Brera, treat yourself with a cup of coffee at one of the nice cafès of Brera district. With its streets of cobblestones, fine art galleries, and elegant boutiques, it will be a highlight of your stay in Milan.


Christmas time is panettone-time

For the Milanese, Christmas time is panettone-time, and even though it seems that panettone has become an obsession for American bakers, well, for us in Milan this luxury bread full of rum-plumped raisins and candied citron is way more than that: it tastes of Christmas, of home, of family.

Baking panettone is a tough job

Baking panettone is a tough job

Baking your own panettone is a tough, demanding process that only the brave can endure, so for most of us the choice is between supermarket or bakery panettone. In either case, when a newly bought panettone comes to your table, the first thing you should do is to warm it slightly by keeping it close to a gentle source of heat. Beware: panettone should not be served hot, a little heat will simply enhance the delicate flavour of butter.

Slices must be generous: panettone represents Christmas, abundance, lavishness, bounty. So forget your daily calorie count and just abandon yourself to its cotton-candy texture.

Versatility is its strength, so do not be afraid to accompany it with other delicacies. One typical recipe is panettone with mascarpone cream, a soft, smooth cream made of mascarpone, fresh eggs, sugar and rum. Basically, that is the same preparation used to make tiramisu’. Just before serving the panettone, ladle a generous tablespoon of mascarpone cream over each slice and enjoy!

By the way, if you have some leftover panettone, simply replace savoiardi biscuits with panettone for a different – but equally delicious – tiramisu’.

But our favourite recipe with panettone is simple, quick and good, and we tipically serve it on February 3rd, Saint Blaise’s Day. By that time, the panettone bought for Christmas will have lost its softness. So cut it into slices, toast them until they are slightly brownish, then sprinkle each slice with vintage brandy and a cloud of powdered sugar. Food for the soul!!!